The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger: Expect emotional intensity, a compelling cast of good and bad characters, twists at every turn - book review -

The Stranger Inside
The Stranger Inside

The Stranger Inside is Unger’s seventeenth novel and the queen of psychological drama once again toys with our minds in a gripping, multi-layered murder mystery which unmasks the killer almost from page one, and then plays out a clever, spine-tingling game of slow reveal.

When the guilty evade justice, even good people can be drawn to do evil things…

After a raft of riveting, tension-packed novels, award-winning American author Lisa Unger certainly knows how to deliver a punch, and her coruscating new thriller upends the classic crime formula in memorable style.

The Stranger Inside is Unger’s seventeenth novel and the queen of psychological drama once again toys with our minds in a gripping, multi-layered murder mystery which unmasks the killer almost from page one, and then plays out a clever, spine-tingling game of slow reveal.

It’s a ploy that is worked to perfection as a tantalising dual narrative follows a woman victim’s hunt for the truth on an increasingly perilous journey full of emotional intensity, murderous revenge, and her own dark secrets that have lain hidden for years.

Twelve-year-old Rain Winter narrowly escaped being abducted while walking to a friend’s house but her two best friends, Tess and Hank, were not as lucky. Tess never came home, and Hank was held in captivity before managing to escape.

Their abductor was sent to prison but years later, he was released. Then someone delivered what they thought was real justice… and killed him in cold blood.

Now Rain has left behind her job as a hard-hitting national radio station journalist and is living the perfect suburban life with husband Greg and baby daughter Lily, and has locked away memories of her troubled youth.

But when a man acquitted of the brutal murder of his pregnant wife is murdered in the same way as his suspected victims, Rain – who followed the trial obsessively, knows he’s guilty and can’t believe he got away with it –­ sees eerie similarities to the murder of her childhood friends’ abductor.

There seems to be a pattern… meticulous and untraceable, the killer strikes in the dead of night, making sure that the guilty are suitably punished for their crimes. As Rain’s own investigation deepens, she is forced to revisit the dark secrets she has worked hard to leave behind, and to face up to the realisation that the killer may be closer than she thinks.

The Stranger Inside is a fascinating psychological exploration of the terrible damage wrought on victims of trauma and violence, and a meditation on the ethics of vigilante revenge and how easily the lines between right and wrong can be blurred.

As the layers of Rain’s life are stripped away – through a fascinating and chilling dual narrative – and the past is revealed, so the darkness of the story deepens and the fears and tensions are ratcheted up to boiling point.

Unger is a wickedly clever writer; juggling themes of psychological damage, revenge, murder and justice with the homely domesticity of Rain’s life with her husband and baby daughter, this is a story she has plotted to perfection.

Expect emotional intensity, a compelling cast of good and bad characters, twists at every turn… and a dénouement that will knock you off your feet!

(HQ, paperback, £7.99)